Seniors in Kansas City Region Report Problems Obtaining Home Medical Equipment and Services under Controversial Medicare Bidding System

    

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Medicare beneficiaries are reporting problems receiving medically required home medical equipment and services following the January 1, 2011 implementation of Medicare’s “competitive” bidding program in Kansas City and nine other regions across the U.S.  The bidding program will affect many of the more than 250,000 seniors and people living with disabilities in the Kansas City area who are enrolled in Medicare.

The bidding program applies to oxygen therapy, enteral nutrients (tube feeding), continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) and respiratory assistive devices, power wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds and support surfaces, and mail-order diabetic supplies.  The bidding program is scheduled to start up in an additional 91 regions later this year, including Wichita. 

“Our government is telling us that it is focusing on job creation and the health and well-being of Americans, but this competitive bidding system does nothing to aid either of these two priorities,” said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). “Competitive bidding is a job-killing program that is forcing small businesses around the country to close and is putting people out of work. As a result, it is taking away patients’ basic right to choose where and from whom they can or can’t get care and services.”

By design, this new Medicare program will severely restrict the number of companies that are allowed to provide the equipment and services subject to bidding, which hurts both patients and providers. Since January 1, patients, clinicians, and homecare providers have already reported:

  • Difficulty finding a local equipment or service provider;
  • Delays in obtaining medically required equipment and services;
  • Longer than necessary hospital stays due to confusion in discharging patients to home-based care;
  • Far fewer choices for patients when selecting equipment or providers;
  • Reduced quality; and
  • Confusing or incorrect information provided by Medicare.

“Allowing patients to stay in their homes through the use of quality homecare equipment and supplies – and out of hospitals and long term care facilities – saves the healthcare system hundreds of thousands dollars each day,” said Schafhauser. “It is ill-advised of the government to implement a program like competitive bidding. The bidding program eliminates the very providers who actually save Medicare money, keep patients safe and independent at home, and employ people during these tough economic times.”

The American Association for Homecare has logged more than 175 complaints, such as the following complaints from Kansas City:

  • An occupational therapist in the Kansas City area is concerned that the choices for her clients are limited: “I would like to have access to a company that I feel meets my patients’ needs and has already met the needs of previous clients and residents.” 
  • A provider of home medical equipment and services in the Kansas City area reports that hospital discharge planners are sending patients only those equipment providers that won contracts for multiple categories under the bidding system, effectively excluding those companies that only won contracts for one or two equipment categories. This further shrinks the pool of homecare providers available to serve Medicare beneficiaries who depend on home medical equipment and services. 

The American Association for Homecare shared a number of problems with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier in January including:

  • Winning companies awarded contracts by Medicare that are bankrupt.
  • Winning companies that are not licensed to provide items or services. 
  • Winning companies that have credit problems.
  • Incorrect information distributed by Medicare about the contract winners and which beneficiaries need to change home medical equipment providers.

The design and implementation of the bidding system alarm Schafhauser and more than 167 leading economists and auction experts, including two Nobel laureates, who warned Congress that this bidding system will fail.  The economic experts who predict failure are not opposed to competitive bidding for Medicare, and in fact many of them design market-based auction systems. But they found that this particular bidding program, as it is designed by CMS, has irreparable flaws that will prevent it from achieving its objectives of low cost and high quality equipment and services.

Also opposing the controversial bidding program are more than a dozen national consumer and patient advocacy groups including the ALS Association, American Association of People with Disabilities, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and United Spinal Association. Last year, a bipartisan group of 257 members of the U.S. House of Representatives supported legislation to repeal the controversial bidding program.

Medicare beneficiaries, family members, caregivers, hospital discharge planners, and clinicians can report problems, concerns, and feedback about this bidding system by calling a toll-free number, 1-888-990-0499, or by visiting the website: www.biddingfeedback.com.  To learn more, visit www.aahomecare.org/competitivebidding.

The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers, manufacturers, and other organizations in the homecare community. Members serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility assistive technologies, medical supplies, inhalation drug therapy, home infusion, and other medical equipment and services in their homes. The Association’s members operate more than 3,000 homecare locations in all 50 states. Visit www.aahomecare.org/athome.

 

SOURCE American Association for Homecare

Leave a Reply